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"He's A Heck Of A Coach": Players Give Their Thoughts On Redskins Head Coach Ron Rivera

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Head coach Ron Rivera stood in front of a packed conference room with everyone's attention focused solely on him.

Rivera spoke for about 25 minutes, and much of what he said was directed at the Redskins organization as a whole. He talked about creating a "player-centered" culture based on discipline and using a collaborative effort to move toward what is best for the Redskins' future. He made it clear that no one will work for the organization if they don't have the discipline to give everything they have.

But the majority of his opening statement was not directed at the Washington media, the staff or even the executives in attendance. He looked directly at the three players sitting in the front row -- Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice and Jonathan Allen -- and said, "Do it the way we teach you, do it the way we ask. You do it that way, the success will be yours."

Judging by what the players have said about their new head coach, they're ready to follow Rivera's lead.

"It felt good. That what you want from a head coach, expressing that it's on the players," Peterson said after Rivera's press conference. "Coaches put you in the right situation, but at the end of the day, players have to execute and have the mindset."

Rivera was officially announced as the Redskins' 30th head coach on New Years's Day, but the rumor that Redskins owner Dan Snyder was going to hire him began to circulate hours after the team finished up the 2019 season against the Dallas Cowboys.

So, players were peppered with questions about Rivera in the days leading up to his introductory press conference at Redskins Park. They seemed excited about the possibility.

"I know those Panthers teams are tough and physical -- obviously they made the Super Bowl [following the 2015 season]," said linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. "We played against them that year and they were really a ... good team that year. He's always had a physical, tough bunch, I know that."

There aren't many Redskins players who have had much experience with Rivera. Dwayne Haskins said he met him briefly during a pre-draft visit and could tell he was "a good dude."

Cornerback Josh Norman has by far the strongest relationship with Rivera among his teammates. He spent the first four years of his career with Rivera when he was with the Panthers. His best year came during the team's Super Bowl run in 2015 when he had four interceptions -- two of which were returned for touchdowns -- three forced fumbles and 18 pass defenses.

"I do know him as a person. That's why he's a top candidate this year," Norman said on Monday. "That says everything there is to say."

Norman said Rivera gets the best out of players, and Rivera confirmed that in his opening statement by saying his responsibility is to work, teach and mentor players. He even said he would do it one by one, if it comes to that.

He also said he would mold his players into men, which Norman said was one of Rivera's best traits.

"He builds men and guys that also build character. Not just for football, but in life," Norman said. "I think that's the first thing you want to see in anybody -- they actually care about you instead of the game itself. That's what builds that family and that bond, guys can't break that."

But even those who haven't played under Rivera know his reputation as being a good coach and person. Peterson is friends with cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who played with the Panthers on two separate occasions under Rivera, and he said Munnerlyn has "nothing but great things" to say about the head coach.

"He used to talk about Ron and how good of a coach he was," Peterson said. "He's a guy that's one of my close friends, so he wouldn't lead me astray with what comes out of his mouth. I know he's a heck of a coach."

Other players like Guice took to Twitter to express their excitement for Rivera. Guice posted a GIF of Rivera giving a thumbs up when the hiring was officially announced. He also tweeted a picture of him shaking hands with Rivera for the first time.

Peterson got first-hand experience with Rivera on Thursday. Rivera talked about leading the team with one voice and everyone being on the same page. That's something Peterson loved to hear.

"Everyone's going to be on one chord," Peterson said. "We all know what's going on. Communication can ruin a lot. It can be the simplest things when you're not on the same page. I feel like that's going to be very important. Defensively, offensively and special teams. That way there's no surprises. You can go out there and really execute."

Peterson heard the stories about Rivera, and now he can confirm them for himself. Rivera wants to lead this franchise back to postseason contention, and he wants to use the players as a conduit to achieve that goal.

Most of the team wasn't in attendance for Rivera's press conference; they were back home enjoying the offseason. But it's almost a given that many of them were watching and listening to what Rivera had to say.

They and everyone else will get to know him soon enough.

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